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    Carlton Watkins: An Important Mammoth Photograph of a Nevada Scene. Carlton Watkins (1829-1916) is widely recognized as one of the most important 19th-century photographers of Western subjects. His preeminence is reflected in the auction value of his work: the record price at auction for a Watkins is $492,000, achieved at a New York auction in 2007, and other Western images have also sold in six figures.

    The example offered here, an original albumen photo measuring 21.5" x 16.5", was taken in 1876, and depicts the "Upper End of Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Flume Co. Lumber and Wood Yard near Carson City." The sweeping view takes in a vast lumberyard, three log flumes, railroad tracks, and a steam locomotive pouring smoke and heading toward the photographer's position. Log flumes are prominent in the folk history of the area, as early lumbermen literally risked life and limb in competing with one another to ride logs down the flume. These logs would be cut into timber for the construction of the mine shafts of the famed Comstock Lode.

    Standing on one of the huge lumber piles are two well-dressed individuals, both important figures in early Nevada history: D. O. Mills, president of the Virginia City Bank of California, and H. M. Yearington, superintendent of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad.

    The more one studies this wonderful image, the more one appreciates its composition, as the gifted photographer saw in this scene the makings of a photographic work of art. It is small wonder that Watkins is today so highly regarded.

    Our research has uncovered one other existing print in the Special Collections Department of the University of Nevada. There is also a very similar image of the same scene in the private collection of E. B. Scott, author of The Saga of Lake Tahoe. Condition is excellent. There are no flaws whatsoever in the surface of the photograph itself. For accuracy we note several trivial thumbtack holes in the mount, not affecting the photo itself. In the lower left-hand corner of the mount is a small pencil notation, possibly by a previous collector: SD 432 / n 247 / 06. Running vertically along the side of this notation in pencil is "1922". Once again for strictest accuracy, we note a tiny bit of paper loss at the bottom edge of the mount, and a trivial stain mark, smaller than a thumbnail, also along the lower edge. There is very light overall surface soiling, which could probably be easily removed by a qualified paper conservator should one feel the need. The photo has been expensively custom framed in a period style oak frame with gold liner.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2011
    21st Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,045

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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